I have been very frustrated with the ritual system that Christians call church. That was going to be the primary focus of this post today. Writing about this had been in the back of my mind since last weekend but thanks to my pastor’s sermon Sunday night I saw that I needed to keep things in proper perspective.
The most important thing in life after salvation is not getting everything in our churches done the way we think is correct, it is our relationships with others, especially with our eternal brethren in the Body of Christ.
My dissatisfaction had largely been because I think our evangelical churches have moved so far from the Biblical model that I was starting to wonder why I was still attending.
Some of my own gripes were and are:
- The church gatherings in the West are mostly ritual services. I do not think they are like the early church at all, or even like third world churches that have fellowships that are much more like family gathering.
- Sunday School classes have become a stupid and shallow man-made substitute for mature leaders teaching others in the Body of Christ the sound doctrine that they learned. I don’t even think I need to tell my readers what I think of those Sunday School magazines that selectively teach everything as applications for living when some passages that they pick are not. I think scriptures should be taught using the historical-grammatical method of hermeneutics. For proper exegesis you have to determine who the author wrote to and why, and use the language as the author intended and in a context that fits the rest of the passage. For example, prophecy about Israel during the time of the “Day of the Lord” in Joel applies to Israel. It is not an application for Christians in America to follow. These national magazine team leaders become centralized teachers to all in the denomination and those presenting their study just become their facilitators. That ought not be.
- The breaking down of Sunday teaching classes to narrow age categories is actually destructive to the Church family. The youth get no insight from adults other than their facilitator. Youth that have reached the age of understanding should be taught by the mature in the Church and not just get the view of one facilitator.
- The way we select pastors in our churches is flawed and the model we have of a head pastor running all aspects of the local church is also flawed. The local church members are the church. Pastors are servants of the church not lords over the church. I read that a good book has come out that puts this in proper perspective, you might get this book “The pastor has no clothes” (I read a review but I have not read the book – I invite your input if you have)
- The way we choose head pastors today is not biblical. Churches seem to think that graduating from Bible school makes someone a mature Christian leader?? More likely they will come out as brainwashed robots with the same agenda taught by the school faculty. They will make growth their top priority for bragging rights and try to pound people into denominational made pegboards. Soon most of them will be looking for a higher paying or more prestigious position. Pastors really should be chosen from within the local congregation and then sent for formal training if necessary. Hiring hirelings out of Bible schools is why pastors now jump ship every three years on the average. Bible schools do not make young people mature stable Christian leaders. It is rather silly and dangerous to the unity of the church to make a young person a head pastor of mature Christians unless he has been mentored all his life like Timothy.
- The expectation that pastors should be leading people to Christ is sort of getting everything backward. The main job of the pastor is to watch over the flock. The flock are those already in the congregation. To then expect your pastor to grow the Church by converting the believing congregation is misguided. The Pastor should mainly attend to and equip the believing sheep. It is every Christian’s commission to tell the good news to the world and to try to disciple those that are receptive.
- Churches put their pastors on a pedestal or on another spiritual level then everyone else. They make the church revolve around the pastor. The pastor is just a man and has much the same problems as everyone else. He needs the Church as much as the Church needs him.
- Churches have put their gatherings pretty much in the early and middle of a day and that hinders people from getting extra rest or doing something with their own family. These days, Sunday is often the only day of the week possible where family and friends can do something together. So knowing this church boards strictly limit the time of church services so people can get out and do what they really want to do anyway. Instead, why not have church gatherings on Friday evenings or any evening or even most evenings and people can come and go as they want? Yeah, even have no time limits within reason and maybe even no head pastor around. Gee… people might even chose to turn off their TV’s and have real fellowship with other Christians instead. It works for cults and it works where there is real persecution. You say Sunday is the Sabbath and it should be a day of rest? Actually, that day was Saturday and true Jews actually do rest on that day unlike most of Christendom of today.
- Most churches have literally become state corporations. The churches are run like corporations. The churches conduct their business meetings according to corporate law. The corporate church membership conducts business and votes like a corporation. They have officers and minutes like state corporations. They obey federal tax law and its muzzling restrictions as if it was some federal approved corporation. It seems to me that most churches in the United States have become partners with a secular governmental system. This should not be.
- Who really cares about your weekly numbers count for Sunday School and the formal ritual service? The numbers change every week so it proves nothing. Some even like to post the numbers on the walls along with some picture of a Norwegian Jesus and the Church Covenant that nobody keeps. When you cannot fit the people attending in the seats it probably is time to worry about numbers. When there are no people in the seats, it probably is time to worry even more about numbers. But at least you wont need to form a counting committee to count them
- Don’t get me started on committees.
- I do not see why kids should have votes on Church affairs. We do not even allow kids to vote in our national elections but they can vote in our churches as long as they were dunked. Is that vote privilege based on their mature wisdom??
- Etc etc.
So I was getting pretty disgusted with some of this and I was even thinking about looking elsewhere even though I know that churches in many of the areas that I mentioned above are pretty much the same around here.
Apparently, I am not alone in my dissatisfaction. According to the polls, only about 30 percent of active members actually show up each week in most churches. I am sure if the ritual service was a weekly sporting event the numbers would be at least double that figure. And truth be told, many just show up once in a while to keep their own membership in good standing. Not that most churches even care.
Many other Christians have given up on attending church altogether. I hear from them quite often. And from what they say IMHO many of these are every bit as Christian as those that are attending the church buildings. Throughout Church history many believing Christians could not physically attend or chose not to attend the established churches. That also does not mean that they do not assemble with other believers as instructed, it just means that they do not do it in a church building.
So having said all that, and knowing other things, that best falls under my etc. etc. category above, why did my thinking change from last Sunday morning to last Sunday evening? Like I said, it had to do with my pastor’s message last Sunday evening. The message he gave really was pretty simple but it was an effective and passionate well delivered message. After thinking about what he said, suddenly everything I mentioned above that had been hashing around in my brain for weeks, paled in the light of his message.
The message was basically not to get overly obsessed on issues that may have no eternal consequence. The key directive in the Bible is to love others and show them Christ through that love. He made good points that we are to strive to make true friendships on this earth because relationships and winning souls is the only thing we can take with us to eternity. We can have all correct doctrine and have everything about everything else correct but what good is it, if in all that knowledge, it just stays in our head and it helps no one here and now?
The people in the Church are our eternal family, so make friends with those you can because that is something that will last into eternity. Yes, if everything were equal I would consider those who have the other stuff all correct, but since I am already in a church where I have found some dear friends, why would I give up that fellowship for some idealism that I know I am never going to find anyway?
I go to my church because I generally do like the people that attend there and some of these I consider close friends. So in the light of that and seeing no outright heresy, it does not make sense that I would just choose to go elsewhere. Many people do that. They jump from one church to another trying to find what they might have found if they just stayed put. That is because many are really yearning for friendships but they will not find them if they never stay anywhere long enough to develop them. Or perhaps they are expecting everyone else to be perfect when they are not perfect themselves?
We can always find reasons not to go to church. Certainly many things in my own gathering are not done as Paul would do them and maybe we should work on correcting any shortcoming the best that we can. Nevertheless, gathering together because we are family is really what it’s all about. Even the scriptures teach us this.
Joh 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.
Joh 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Joh 15:17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.
Ro 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
1Th 4:9 But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.
1Pe 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
1Jo 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
1Jo 3:23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
1Jo 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
1Jo 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
1Jo 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
2Jo 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
1Jo 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
Ga 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Many in this world are friendless. More than you might think in our western society of self independence suffer from chronic loneliness. People are crying to God in loneliness all the time. All they really want is one good friend.
Making friends with the friendly toward you is easy and we should do that but also be proactive and befriend the friendless and you most likely will make a lifelong friend that will prove to be closer than a brother. The reward for you on earth will be great and the reward for eternity will be even greater. Fellowship and friendship for eternity with the imagers of God is really the reason why God created people in His own Image in His creation.
Don Koenig is the founder of ThePropheticYears website. He has been publishing articles on the Internet on Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and Christian worldviews since 1999. You can find well over a thousand articles and thousands of comments written by Don from the homepage of this website.